DarkBlack - The Barbarians Hammer
Hot Dog City Record Company
80s Metal
5 songs (31'26")
Release year: 2005
Reviewed by Alex

I tried to judge the book by its cover and, for once, I was right. Black and white picture of three dudes striking rocker-biker-heavy metal poses, leather clad, siding with Dio in his spat with Vivian Campbell. Oh, the 80s … The time which bore some genre landmarks and inspired so many, including, apparently, DarkBlack.

Given a pretty poor choice for the band’s moniker, goofy label, which seems to be signing local Pennsylvania acts regardless of the genre, and the fact my daughter can draw a better cover art, one may think that DarkBlack is doomed from the start. Do not be so fast in your judgment. The band tried to capture the spirit of the 80s metal, and they deserve a big kudos for that. Here we have on display five songs of rough, unpolished classic heavy metal spiked up with the occasional thrash outburst. DarkBlack guitar sound is NWOBHM barbed wire, preserving the atmosphere of a tough neighborhood bar. The riffs, although not invented from scratch, hit home, especially when they are well structured like in the beginning of The Warhammer. In addition to rhythm guitar, Ant, the band’s highlight, also plays leads and he does it well, evidence being the speedy solo in Wizardman, some tremolo in the closer Axestorm (Sign of the Master) and noodly A Tale of Vengeance. His thrash parts aren’t exactly the blinding speed of Peace Sells, but they are respectable, bringing the energy to the long compositions. The rhythm section is steady and Carl on drums is trying not to be static, throwing in some rolls when possible. We have to forgive the hollow snare production given the likely measly size of any Hot Dog City Records production budget.

OK, so if DarkBlack has the spirit of the 80s down pat, why doesn’t the whole The Barbarian’s Hammer sweep me off my feet? Going for all things epic, DarkBlack did not craft strong memorable songs. The compositions on The Barbarian’s Hammer are long, protracted, made up of haphazardly thrown together loose fitting parts. With the quality of Tim’s vocals, more on that below, it was a good idea to focus on decent instrumental parts, but the music has to make sense, not to be a stockpile of ideas.

Tightening up compositions would have helped DarkBlack a lot, but without changing the vocal approach, I am afraid the band would not go far. Tim’s off-key crooning is poor, it ruins good songs like The Warhammer. It goes from bad to worse when he tries to pitch a high note (Wizardman). You just have to know your limitations. If you are not Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, don’t attempt it, even though Jag Panzer’s Ample Destruction is the record you are inspired by. Maybe the band should let Tim concentrate on the bass, and find another, better, full-time vocalist.

It is good to know that the US has bands like Slough Feg and Twisted Tower Dire tending to the flames set off by the 80s. Add DarkBlack to the list of bands trying to throw fuel into the same firepit. Not terrible, but still below the second tier, DarkBlack has a lot of work to do if they hope to catch bands like Cauldron Born, etc., I am not even bringing up the frontrunners of the genre.

Killing Songs :
The Warhammer
Alex quoted 55 / 100
Other albums by DarkBlack that we have reviewed:
DarkBlack - Midnight Wraith reviewed by Alex and quoted 70 / 100
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